Relearning from childhood…

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Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Living on the Edge…

Life is like living on the edge today. We can neither rely on our past nor predict the future. The life cycle of changes were in years then reduced to months , hours and may be now it is in minutes. We are not sure what is likely to happen the very next minute in our lives. No part of the world seems safe for human living. No phase of life is stable and predictable.

Let us examine life from different prisms and different stages. Today we cannot even predict when a child is likely to be born. Of course, in the past also it was true. But, today with all the advancement of technology, the doctors generally give a likely week and not an exact date. Inspite of all the tests possible the doctors are not sure if the birth of the kid will be normal or through a c section. The life of the mother and the kid is fragile till birth and may be till they stabilise after a few months.

Lets move the next stage of a student. The admission into class 1 has become the most difficult in most metropolitan cities in India. Parents run around in search of a school and in most situations do not have a choice but are compelled to admit their child in the school where they get admission rather than the school where they want their child to study. They commit to visit all temples, mosques and churches in their mind if their child does get admitted in any school.

In the next stage, the kid passes out of school and we cannot be sure where the child can pursue further studies. The college admission process is also a rat race and has many unpredictable factors. Assuming the child is able to pass out college in flying colours and wants to pursue her master’s course in a specialised field, the challenges are similar. Even after getting a post graduate degree in their preferred subject, most students cannot be sure of their career choice.

Life is full of uncertainties and it does not end here. As an adult enters an organisation, he may be believe that his life will be stable and predictable. This may no longer to be true. The organisation you join may be taken over and there could be restructuring and you may be declared redundant and lose your job in a few years. The market may go into recession and everything may look gloomy all around you.

If we believe that we have a job and will get married to a partner of our choice and life may turn positive may not be true. Today, young couples have independent aspirations, beliefs and values. Neither of the two are wiling to compromise on their priorities. This may lead to a divorce much earlier then they would believe it could happen. So, then life begins all over again for both the partners.

Assuming, one has got over this phase of life and you have settled down with your partner does not guarantee peace of mind. The performance and stress anxieties are making couples lonely even in a crowd. This is leading to childless couples and other marital discords. If we are able to get over it and have a child and bring up the kid as per our dreams, life’s challenges begins all over again.

All the above unpredictabilities of life also give us a plethora of opportunities. We can be the best student in the class and then every school and college will like to admit us. We may excel in sports or arts and again academic institutions are willing to give us a chance. If we are the best in whatever we do at work, no employer would like to give us the pink slip even in the worst market conditions.

If we are an affectionate and empathetic spouse, every partner will dream to live with us and have kids and live happily there after. Life will continue to be full of uncertainties and unpredictable realities. It is up to us to be the best in everything we do and be resilient, adaptable and patient. No force on earth can ever make a world class sportsperson give up in any sport. So is life. If we believe in ourselves and our capabilities and never give up, we will always be a winner in life.

As in the photo above, our life is like the birds on the lake. We do not know where we will land the next minute in our lives.

Let us not give up even before trying. We have to remember that only the best will survive in an ever competitive world.

S Ramesh Shankar

Moods & Modes

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We go through different moods and through different modes. Our moods could be determined by our attitude and also that of others. As in the photo above, a kid can keep you energised right through the day with his playfulness and spontaneity.

A mother could teach you lessons of selflessness through her actions every day. She does everything at home and is the ultimate caregiver. She may then spend a tough day at work and yet never forget to care for her family. Her moods are not impacted by her pressures at work alone but her selfless nature to give more than she gets.

Most of us conveniently blame the environment around us for our moods. We believe the mode determines our moods. If we have a challenging day at work or our boss is upset with us, we pass it on to our spouse or kids. We do not realise that they may also have had a tough day at school or work and have equal impact ot mode on their moods.

I have tried to examine the cause and effect and moods and mode. While it may appear logical to relate a mode to the state of the mood, in reality it may be the other way around. After a lot of reflection I have come to the conclusion that I alone am responsible for my moods right through the day.

I may conveniently pass on the cause of my bad mood to my family or colleagues at work. It is possible that a family member or a colleague at work may have spoilt your mood by their bad mode. But it is up to us to keep our cool and maintain our mood. This may easier said than lived.

However, on deep reflection I have realised that the really good people are not impacted by the mode of others. They keep a happy mood all the time. Their attitude to life makes all the difference. They make you realise that to be in a good mood or bad mood is more dependant on ourselves than other people around us.

We have start each day with the belief that this is the best day of my life. We have to grateful to God and all the people around ourselves to have helped us where we are. If we live life with this attitude, I believe our mood will always be positive. As I said earlier, it may be more difficult to practise than write about it. But I have met real people in my life who live it every day.

Time to change is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

What others’ see, we don’t ?

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We need to continue to explore to see the unseen. A child may remind us of something in front of us, which we see every day but have not really observed. We sometimes miss the obvious and its not exclusive to us. All humans experience this phenomenon. This may be because we perceive things around us differently and hence tend to see what we perceive. After all perception is reality.

I have experienced this phenomena right through my life at all stages. As a kid, you tend to focus on things that interests you. You are oblivious of all other things around you. Then in the youth, we get influenced by your friends more than your family. This makes us look at things which excite us. As we move to adulthood, we tend to put a value to everything around us. We value things which we perceive as worthwhile to us.

It may be interesting to share some examples in this regard. We may be attempting to solve a puzzle for hours without any success. A kid may come in and crack it in a few seconds. We are perplexed. We wonder what we could not see which the child could do in seconds. As we grow up in life, logic takes over our lives. We forget our gut and our feelings. A child is more perceptible than an adult because they are always expressing themselves in emotions. They are not bothered how others are going to perceive them. We are worried how the stereo typed society will view us. Hence our behaviour is determined by the people around us rather than what we want to do.

It is sometimes interesting to note that a child can create multiple options within minutes. I was recently with my grand son who is 7 years old and he could pose in ten different ways within a matter of a few minutes. I might have struggled to even think of the possibilities before I could pose for similar photographs. I would have evaluated how others would perceive me when I am seen posing in such photos. That would have determined my behaviour. We are inhibited by our own limitations.

I have often seen that when I work with a group of young millennials at work, they can come up with multiple whacky options on any issue. The experienced employees tend to become prisoners of our past experience. We are worried that it did not work in the past and hence may not work in the future. We are bothered how are seniors will react to a crazy idea. A young employee is open, quick and spontaneous.

As in the photo above, the two langurs could spot a tiger nearby and cautioned us although we as tourists, who were looking for the elusive tiger could not spot it on our own. This happens in real life too. We do not see what others are able to see in every day life. It is either because of perceptions or because of conditioning of the mind. In a jungle, the langurs are the first to spot danger of a tiger and alerts all living being around them of a possible attack.

In reality, life is not different. We tend to see things which we want to see. It may be a good idea to challenge ourselves by the people around us. They can help us to see things, which we miss out in life. The time to explore the unseen is now. It is never too late to learn.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Art of weaving…

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We need to learn a lot in life from nature. One of the things I have admired in nature is the ability of birds to weave their own nests. Most of them do not have the resources near them but they still succeed. They gather resources from wherever it is available without cribbing about its non-availability. They then gather bit by bit and weave their nest in right earnest. Their nest is pulled down by greedy humans and other animals around them but they do not give up.

On the other hand, what do we do as human beings ? We find every excuse under the sign to complain. If at home, we blame our parents for discrimination and try to avoid doing any work at home. At school, we complain to our teachers of lack of time to do our home work or any projects or assignments. At work, we innovate ingenious reasons to delay a project or not deliver our commitments on time.

If we are willing to learn from the birds around us, we can weave our life to success. We will never crib about resources or lack of it. We will always find a way to locate alternate ways to solve an issue. We will garner the support of every member of our team to support us to succeed. We will share success and failure with equal measure. We will collaborate to excel. We will achieve our goal irrespective of the circumstances or the environment around us.

Another important lesson we can learn from the birds is to never give up. I have seen the birds’ nest is destroyed by insensitive humans or even by the travails of nature. The birds are not wasting their time in finding out why it happened and who can be held responsible ? They seem to focus on rebuilding their nest so that they are ready for the future. We tend to focus on fixing the blame rather than garnering our energy to prepare for the future. What is the use of crying over spilt milk is the message the birds give us loud and clear. Isn’t it worthier to spend time to find new sources of milk for ourselves.

Another dimension of learning from the art of weaving is that every problem in life may not have the same solution. No two birds build the same type of nest. Every bird weaves a nest, which will best protect its offspring’s from the travails of nature. It also knows the way nature is likely to behave and hence reinforces the nest with necessary materials to support it. Life is no different. Every challenge in life is different and we need to be creative to finding an innovative way to solve it. We need to course correct our solution mid way as the dimensions of the challenge changes along with way.

As in the photo above, the honey bees are another fascinating creature to teach us the art of weaving. Their honey combs are one of the most well designed under the sun. They are built to ensure maximum safety and there is clear division of labour. We can learn from the honey bees how to optimally use resources to build our life’s nest. We need to learn to benefit from the strengths of each team member so that the collective output is the best we can achieve in life. It is not worthwhile to trying everything all alone.

Life is a complex phenomenon. We need to learn to weave our life like the birds beautifully do every day. We need to be creative, collaborative and never give up irrespective of multiple failures. This is the learning birds give us. We need to grab it with both hands and make the best utilisation of limited resources available to us. We need not complain as God has given enough for all to live, survive and grow.

Lets learn the ‘the art of weaving life” from the birds around us.

S Ramesh Shankar

Belittling

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Each of us have a place in our society. Each of us has a role we play. We all try our best to live up to the expectations of our role. It is like every player in a football team has a specific role to play and they try their best to play their role to the best of their ability. Life is no different. Let us look at our daily life. We see people play different roles right through the day. It could be the newspaper boy who drops your morning paper. It could be the security guard, who guards your community premises. It could be your maid, your driver or even your cook. We cannot imagine our life to be complete without each of them playing their role.

Some of us have a tendency to belittle some roles in life. Even in the professional field, some people may consider their jobs more valuable than others. This is more of perception than reality. The best example are the fingers or toes in our arms. All the fingers have the same value although may play different functions in our daily chores. But, imagine the thumb thinking that she is superior to the little finger and makes us believe so. Then we realise the value of the little finger only when it is injured in an accident and we are unable to use it for doing our routine tasks.

It is like in the age old caste system in India. Some castes considered themselves upper castes and others were considered lower in the social strata. This is more of a mindset issue. In my view all human beings irrespective of their caste are equal in every possible way. They ability to add value to society depends on their knowledge, skill and attitude rather than caste. Modernisation has proved that caste has nothing to do with the growth of the human kind. But, traditionally people belonging to the upper castes did belittle the lower castes in society. This is a more psychological limitation of the upper castes in their mind rather than a reality based on scientific facts.

I sometimes wonder why do we belittle people around us. A child sometimes ends up even belittling his mother because she may not be as educated as the kid. The child believes that being more educated gives him the right to underestimate his mother. Time and experience teaches the child that education cannot make you superior to others. It could add value to your knowledge but cannot necessarily substitute experience or hone your attitude to life.

We see this behaviour within the precincts of the organisation too. People in particular positions think that they are superior to the people doing others jobs. It is like a white collared staff thinking that he is superior to the blue collared workman. The staff does not realise that he can never make the product a workman produces ever in his life even if he tries his best. This is not because he cannot ever but does not have the skills to do the same. It is true for all professions and all roles. We may be highly qualified from the best Universities but cannot compare ourselves with someone else, who has skills we do not have.

The truth is that societies also tend to value roles differently. Every society values some roles more than others. This could be due to historic reasons or due lack of adequate awareness of the different roles. But I do believe that evolved societies respect all roles with equal reverence. This is the true reflection for human development. This can be seen in developed societies where nobody is hesitant to share what they do since every role in the community is equally respected.

We need to learn to respect every role in life. There is no justification of belittling others and then justifying it. I would say that is human limitation to belittle others. It reflects more in our inability than ability to know others and their value in society. We need to learn to respect each and every person around us and their contributions to life. This is the only we learn and grow in life.

It may be belittling to dinosaurs to compare them with humans as in the photo above.

Let us start to respect everyone around us from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Happiness Unlimited

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The choice to be happy or unhappy every day in our life is in our hands. It depends on how we exercise this choice. Every day of our life, we have choices to make and this determines if we are happy or otherwise. Every situation in life has two sides. It is like looking at the glass half empty or half full. If we look at life as a half full glass, it makes us happy every day. On the other hand, if we keep worrying about the half empty glass, then life is treacherous leave alone being unhappy.

How do we be happy at all times ? It may not be practical to be happy at all times of your life. But the day we realise that we have a choice in everything we do every day, we may live happily. If we succeed in any effort, we are bound to feel good. On the other hand failure of any type makes us sad. When we fail, we have a choice to sob or reflect and learn from our mistakes.

It is like after running 40 kilometres if we are not able to complete a full marathon of 42 kilometres, we have a choice to curse ourselves for not completing the last two kilometres or pat ourselves on the back for completing 40 kilometres successfully and preparing earnestly for the next marathon to be a winner. So, in every situation we can regret and feel sad or rejoice whatever we could achieve and resolve to attain higher goals in the future.

Life is no different. Every day, God gives us the ability to make a choice. We can get up in the morning and be grateful for all the wonderful things he has blessed us with. On the other hand, we also have the option to curse ourselves and feel bad as we are not as wealthy as our neighbours or our siblings. In every situation, the choice we make, makes us happy or unhappy.

Happiness in my view is a state of mind. It is an attitude to life. I have met people who earn just enough to meet their daily needs every day but are always happy and willing to help others in all ways they can. On the other hand, I have met senior managers in organisations who earn enough for their next birth too but are never happy with their salary or quality of life. The day we realise that we can buy material things through money but can never buy happiness from any shop, we may have changed our attitude to life.

I am a born optimist and luckily for me my spouse is equally a content. We have been happily married for more than three decades and have gone through all the ups and downs of life. We have been happy when our monthly salary was just enough to meet both our ends or today when we are blessed with enough for our future. We realised as in the photo above that living life as if tomorrow does not exist is one key to happiness. Another mutual learning is to ensure that our greed never exceeds our need. Our third mantra to happiness has been to live within our means. We have never lived on credit and have always tried to be be debt free throughout our life( except for house, car or medical emergency loans taken at some stages of life)

So, we have a choice to make. The date and time to make the choice is every day and every minute. If we wait for the auspicious day to be happy, it may never arrive. It is better to live every day as if today has been the best in your life. If something goes wrong, it is better to hope that tomorrow will be a better day rather than brooding over yesterday and spoiling our future.

Let us start now. Be happy forever.

S Ramesh Shankar